Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adam Beechen Debuts BATMAN BEYOND Commentary Videocast

In the first of what's promised to be a regular commentary series on YouTube, writer Adam Beechen posted an introductory video yesterday for his upcoming Batman Beyond digital and print series.

"My hope," said Beechen, "is just that if you're a longtime fan of Batman Beyond -- the character or the comic -- this gives you a little insight into what we're doing as we're planning and plotting out an issue, what goes into certain scenes, or what goes into certain bits of dialogue, or pointing out fun things that happened to appear in the background, maybe give you some hints about what's coming up."

Discussing what inspired him to do these videocasts, Beechen added that as a comics reader, he was left with questions after reading a particular book and wished for a chance to sit down with the writers and artists.  "My hope is that these videocasts will answer some questions that readers might have.  I figure if I had those questions, then probably there are some readers out there today that still have those kinds of questions."

On the subject of how often the commentaries will be posted, Beechen said that Batman Beyond will have a digital release online, which will be collected into a print version.  One of these videocasts will be posted approximately one week after the print version arrives in comic shops.  "Hopefully by then, everyone will have seen the most recent chapter, whether online or in print so there won't be a lot of spoiler issues, but nevertheless, we'll put together a spoiler disclaimer for this just in case anyone hasn't gotten around to reading our latest pages."

Beechen later brought up that legendary Batman artist Norm Breyfogle will be handling the artistic duties for Batman Beyond.  "If you've never heard of him before," said Beechen, "you're in for a real treat because his art is truly spectacular and he's bringing a ton of creative energy to the book."

The first digital chapter of Batman Beyond arrives online on February 15, 2012, followed by the second chapter on February 22nd.  Both of these chapters will be collected together for the print version that will be released in comic shops on February 29th.  These chapters will be part of a larger book titled Batman Beyond Unlimited that will also feature Justice League Beyond, with new stories by writer Derek Fridolfs and artist Dustin Nguyen.

An e-mail address is set up at BatmanBeyondCommentary@gmail.com to take questions for the videocast about Batman Beyond, writing for comics or anything to do with the comics industry.  The next YouTube videocast to discuss the first issue is slated for sometime during the first week in March.

If you'd like to check out the full introductory videocast, you can view it below...

Monday, January 30, 2012

New GAME OF THRONES Season 2 Trailer Debuts

Winter is still coming...

A new trailer for the second season of HBO's stellar series Game of Thrones has arrived on the Internets, giving another slice of raw meat to the show's fans already ravenous for more.  In this trailer titled "You Win or You Die," we open with Lord Varys, known as "The Spider," talking about how "a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

Other highlights include Catelyn Stark drawing a knife on Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, the man who betrayed her husband Ned after...um...telling Ned he shouldn't be trusted.  King Joffrey Baratheon is still a little jerk to Ned's daughter Sansa, threatening her with a bow and arrow and telling her "Killing you would send your brother a message."

In addition, Joffrey's mum Cersi is hated by the people she essentially rules over, with her brother Tyrion Lannister saying "You might find it difficult to rule over millions who want you dead."  Meanwhile, Jon Snow, Ned's bastard son, is searching for his missing uncle on the other side of The Wall where there just happens to be this lovely bunch of White Walkers.

Daenerys Targaryen begins her quest to capture the throne, announcing "I am Daenerys Stormborn and I will take what is mine...with fire and blood!"  Ned's youngest daughter Arya, hardened after witnessing the beheading of her father, sums up the entire series by saying that "Anyone can be killed."

And now that actor Peter Dinklage has won at both the Emmys and the Golden Globes for his performance as Tyrion, he appears to have more emphasis this season as Tyrion remarks, "I understand the way this game is played."

Game of Thrones returns for Season 2 on April 1, 2012.  Here's the full trailer...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- AQUAMAN #5

There are a number of constants in geekdom.  Stormtroopers from Star Wars never hit anything they fire their weapons at, Kenny McCormick from South Park is killed off from time to time (although granted, not as often as he used to be), and every so often, Aquaman gets stranded in the middle of a desert.

Yep, this often-redone Aquaman story premise makes you want to channel some of the recent Battlestar Galactica and go "All of this has happened before...and will happen again."  Adventure Comics #256, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #115, Justice League of America (vol.1) #12,  DC Special Series #1 (a personal favorite), DC Challenge #4, Outsiders: Five of a Kind #1, and probably some others I'm forgetting have all featured this rather obvious plot with some variations here and there.  So what makes this version stand out?

Well, Geoff Johns' script for one thing.  Still playing with fan preconceptions of Aquaman, Johns uses this desert story "Lost" as a framework to develop the personality of the Post-Flashpoint Arthur Curry and also set up a significant mystery.  As revealed at the end of last issue, the question of "Who sank Atlantis?" is the next major storyline and some tidbits are dropped here that will hopefully pay off somewhere down the road.  A discovered artifact shaped like the letter "A" adorning Aquaman's belt begins emitting a high-pitched chatter, ultimately revealed to be a visual recording hinting at the ominous "enemy" that sank Atlantis.  In addition, we also gain some insight into this new Arthur's persona, as a hallucination from dehydration reveals that he views himself as someone desperate to belong somewhere but terrified that he never will.  A nice upgrade in characterization from "the guy who talks to fish."

Ivan Reis, meanwhile, continues to excel as the title's artist.  The issue's opening scene of Aquaman falling from the sky into a double-page spread desert crater sets the tone nicely, especially with some solid coloring from Rod Reis.  Some of the later desert pages seem to echo Neal Adams mixed with bronze-age Aquaman artist Jim Aparo, while retaining Reis' own style in the process.  He also designed a visually distinctive set of armor for the recorded Atlantean warrior, which should look even more impressive whenever we flash back to see hordes of Atlanteans fighting in vain against the "enemy."

So it looks like Aquaman should be interesting reading for the foreseeable future, which is very reassuring.  Next month promises "Mera vs. The World" and if Johns' take on Mera in Blackest Night and Brightest Day was any indication of what could be in store, my money's definitely on her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who Should Be the Next DOCTOR WHO Companion?

Okay, fellow Doctor Who fans...We know that at some point during Series Seven later this fall, the Eleventh Doctor's companions Amy Pond/Williams and Rory Williams/Pond will be leaving both the TARDIS and the television series.  "The final days of the Ponds are coming," current showrunner Steven Moffat has said.  "I'm not telling you when or how, but that story is going to come to a heartbreaking end."

Now, the Ponds/Williamses have had a good run, over two seasons, but the Doctor's next companion is already being discussed even though she (let's face it, probably a she) supposedly hasn't been cast yet.  With that in mind, I started wondering about which female characters we've already met before in previous episodes would make a good replacement companion for Amy...

1.  River Song/Melody "Mels" Pond -- The obvious choice, perhaps, but River Song was such a large focus of Series Six that the show came dangerously close to needing to be retitled River Who.  Although there remains quite a number of gaps in River's history that could be explored, especially as a full-fledged companion travelling with the Doctor, it feels as though most of the main highlights of her story (birth, regeneration, second regeneration, "marriage" to the Doctor, imprisonment, death) have been covered already.  And from a show standpoint, breaking completely away from the Amy/Rory/River saga may freshen the series up in the way Doctor Who needs to do from time to time in order to evolve and grow in new directions.

2. Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a.k.a. Reinette, a.k.a. Madame de Pompadour -- Now this is an interesting one.  Most fans, including myself, consider "The Girl in the Fireplace" to be one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever, with an ending so sad and tragic it should never be messed with... unless...  It seems there's been some fan speculation recently of the idea of Reinette returning, after Moffat told his followers on Twitter to follow "Fireplace" actress Sophia Myles -- "Right EVERYBODY who follows me, go and follow @SophiaMyles - spin that fireplace. NOW. I'll explain later. Or not."  Myles tweeted in response, "Watch this (fire)place," and "The plot thickens."  Of course, it's possible that Myles could be brought back as a completely new character, which has been done for other stars such as Freema Agyeman, and not reprise her role of Reinette.

3.  Lady Christina de Souza -- Appearing in the Tenth Doctor story "Planet of the Dead," actress Michelle Ryan portrayed Christina de Souza, a thief of expensive artifacts bored with her aristocratic upbringing.  Several mentions were made during the episode of how well the Doctor and Lady Christina got along, and her thieving skills were proven to be quite useful in adventures.  The character was last seen fleeing from police capture in a flying bus, so it's possible this incarnation of the Doctor may be more inclined to welcome Lady Christina aboard as a regular companion.

4.  Jenny -- Last seen in the Tenth Doctor episode "The Doctor's Daughter," Jenny was a female clone artificially grown from the Doctor's genes.  Although the Doctor believes her to be dead after suffering a fatal gunshot, she later returned to life but did not regenerate and was last shown traveling the universe somewhere in a stolen shuttlecraft.  It should be noted that Jenny was originally slated to die in the episode, but that changed at the suggestion of none other than...Steven Moffat.  Georgia Moffett, who played Jenny, is the daughter of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and recently married Tenth Doctor David Tennant.  Perhaps she might like the chance to reprise Jenny for a series or two with Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith?

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Well, I guess we really know why Star Wars creator George Lucas is retiring from big-budget filmmaking now.

In one of the most amazing and surreal tributes to the legendary 1977 science-fiction classic, Star Wars fans across the globe have contributed their own takes on the film, stitched together into a complete two-hour fan recreation called Star Wars Uncut.  As the story goes, online producer and director Casey Pugh asked thousands of internet users in 2009 to remake Star Wars into a fan film, just fifteen seconds at a time.  Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted.

Together with the help of video editor Aaron Valdez and sound designer/mixer Bryan Pugh, Casey Pugh pieced together footage of animation, action figures, people in cardboard masks, assorted children and their toys, people driving their cars, you name it, into a complete scene-by-scene quilt of love from Star Wars fans.  The result is truly bizarre at times, but with more heart than all three Star Wars prequel films combined.  Enjoy it below until Lucas tells his Legal Stormtroopers to execute Order 66 on YouTube...

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Amazing Spider-Man was a bit wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey this week...and that's definitely a good thing.

In the cheerily-titled "I Killed Tomorrow Part 1 of 2: Schrödinger's Catastrophe," writer Dan Slott gives Peter Parker just three hours to prevent the destruction of New York City.  This isn't the typical "ticking clock" story, though, because Peter only learns about New York's destruction by stepping through a Doorway to Tomorrow (Morrow...Morrow...).

It seems Grady Scraps, his fellow creative engineer at think-tank Horizon Labs, has invented a gateway field of chronoton particles with a 24-hour window.  When Grady shows off his new invention, Peter steps through only to discover that tomorrow's events have suddenly been altered and all of New York City has been completely demolished.  Peter quickly finds an abandoned wristwatch frozen at the exact time of the destruction, while Grady uses a newspaper from before Peter's presence altered the timeline to help Spider-Man fix the timeline and stop the devastation before it happens.

Everybody got that?

Slott indulges his love of time-travel stories here, even revealing that Grady, like Slott himself, is a fan of Doctor Who, adding another Whovian to the Marvel Universe.  (Hmmm...I wonder if Grady ever hangs out with Mr. Fantastic and his daughter Valeria...)  And as the story's title suggests, the quantum mechanics paradox known as Schrödinger's cat comes into play, with New York City being simultaneously undamaged and completely destroyed.  The story's real heart though, is the pairing of Spider-Man and the unconventional Grady, making it feel as if Spidey traveled to Lost Island and spent an entire episode teamed up with Hugo "Hurley" Reyes.

As for the art, Humberto Ramos turns in a mostly-solid issue of his distinctive exaggerated style.  He puts a great deal of effort into giving his characters individual hairstyles and specific fashion choices, but rushes a bit through scenes involving buildings and the devastation.  However, if you're a fan of Ramos on Amazing Spider-Man, as I am, you're probably willing to overlook this and concentrate more on the story instead.

The cliffhanger works nicely, giving Spidey mere seconds to identify what needs to be done (or not done) to avoid catastrophe.  Something tells me he'll figure it out, but that wait for the next issue to see what happens...Duuuuude...

Britain Admits Using Fake Rock to Spy on Russia

The name is Rock...Fake Rock.

Reuters is reporting today that Britain has admitted to using a fake rock concealing a high-tech communications device in order to spy on Russia.  In a television program aired on Russian state television in 2006, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) accused Britain of using the gadget for top secret communications in Moscow, but Britain didn't admit to this at the time. 

However, Jonathan Powell, who was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has just claimed that the accusations were true.  "They had us bang to rights," Powell said in a BBC documentary to be aired today.  "Clearly they had known about it for some time and had been saving it up for a political purpose."

The original Russian television story reported how the rock contained electronic equipment and had been used by British diplomats to receive and transmit information.  It showed a video of a man walking along the pavement of a Moscow street, slowing his pace, glancing at a rock and slowing down, then picking up his pace.  Then the camera films another man, who walks by and picks up the rock.  Other cameras have caught someone placing or removing the rock in a Moscow park, as shown below.

The FSB has linked the fake rock with claims that British security services were making secret payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.  Soon after the incident, the then-Russian president, Vladimir Putin, initiated a new law restricting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving funding from foreign governments.

Britain's Foreign Office, responsible for the overseas intelligence agency MI6, declined to comment on Powell's remarks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Gets Stop-Motion Remake

Like probably many of you out there, one of my all-time favorite movies is Steven Spielberg's 1981 action-adventure classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, starring Harrison Ford and Karen Allen.  The opening sequence, featuring archaeologist Indiana Jones and his companion Satipo going into an ancient, booby-trapped Peruvian temple to recover a golden idol, sets the tone for one of the greatest films of all time.

Well, it seems animator Jeff Gurwood is quite the fan as well.  He apparently spent six grueling months recreating this six-minute sequence in a shot-for-shot video, using the process of stop-motion animation featuring Hasbro action figures and custom-built sets.  Cartoon Network's Adult Swim series Robot Chicken has done this sort of thing for a while now, even featuring Raiders parody sketches, but certainly not a shot-for-shot remake without the advantages of a major animation studio.

Enjoy the stop-motiony goodness...

Friday, January 13, 2012

CW Developing DC Comics' GREEN ARROW for TV

Y'know, with all these various superhero TV projects in the works, I wonder if we'll actually get to watch one someday...

In the latest in a series of DC Comics television project announcements featuring Raven, Deadman, Booster Gold and The Spectre, it seems Green Arrow can now be added to the list.  Deadline reports that the CW network is finalizing a deal for a pilot order for Arrow, an hourlong drama based on the Emerald Archer.

The pilot is written and executive produced by Green Lantern co-writers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim and Fringe and Green Arrow/Black Canary writer Andrew Kreisberg.  David Nutter, who directed the terrific pilot for the CW's Superman series Smallville, will likely direct the Arrow pilot as well.

However, it appears that actor Justin Hartley, who starred as Green Arrow/Oliver Queen on Smallville, will not be reprising the role.  An odd decision, considering Smallville ended last May and Hartley has only appeared on an episode of NBC's Chuck since then.  Also, Arrow will have a new setting not based on the comics, which could mean just about anything.

Working on a DC Comics television series to replace Smallville was important to the CW during this development season.  "We’re looking next year to do a superhero show if the right superhero comes to be,” CW president Mark Pedowitz said back in August.  In addition to Arrow, the network is developing the aforementioned Deadman, scripted by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ARCHER Season 3 Spoilers

FX's animated espionage comedy Archer returns to the Danger Zone for Season 3 on January 19th and The Huffington Post has some details on what type of hostile work environment we can expect in 2012.

The big news is that actor Bryan Cranston of AMC's Breaking Bad will voice a character for the two-part season finale.  Archer's creator and executive producer Brian Reed revealed that Cranston will be voicing Commander Drake, an "earnest, conscientious astronaut" trying to stop a mutiny on the International Space Station.  Without naming specific characters, Reed mentioned that a number of ISIS employees will experience astronaut training in the first part of the finale and then end up in orbit with Drake in part two.  "I love it when everybody gets to go [on a mission]," said Reed, "so a lot more people than you would think get to go to outer space."

In other news, Jack McBrayer of NBC's 30 Rock and Michael Rooker of AMC's The Walking Dead will appear in another upcoming episode as the brother of ISIS employee Ray Gillette and a corrupt sheriff, respectively.  In this episode, the ISIS team travels to West Virginia to help Gillette's brother, who is a farmer of marijuana.

Other episodes in the new season include Sterling Archer getting lost in a South American jungle, Cyril Figgis receiving dangerous new assignments, a typically bad train ride to Canada and a trip to Venice.  Also, there will be a Pam Poovey-centered episode revealing her history as an underground drift racer with ties to the Japanese yakuza.  Reed also mentioned that Dr. Krieger, ISIS' technology expert, will be the "catalyst" for the return of another prominent guest star, whose identity Reed did not disclose.  Hmmm...Bionic Barry Dylan perhaps?

Meanwhile, a tie-in book from HarperCollins called How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written arrives in stores on January 17th.  "From what I understand, HarperCollins got Archer to write a book, and he blew the advance," said Reed.  "I've read the book, and it's very begrudgingly written, like Archer does not want to be writing this book."  Still, Archer fans should find plenty inside, from spy tips and romantic advice to "a ton of delicious cocktail recipes."  Reed also said, "Malory wrote the foreword, but it's not really a glowing recommendation of the book."

Monday, January 9, 2012

DC Comics: The NEW New 52

Now that we're five months into DC Comics' Post-Flashpoint "The New 52" relaunch of the DC Universe, we have a far better grasp of how comics retailers and buyers are responding to the initial offering of 52 titles.  As you can tell by the Top 300 sales chart from December 2011, some are still doing exceedingly well and others not so much.  That's to be expected, of course, so according to recent comments from DC, some of "The New 52" probably won't survive past their twelfth issues.

With this in mind, I thought I'd share my personal wish list of ten titles I'd like to see replace the cancelled books come September 2012.  For the record, this isn't any super-duper top secret information I've learned from my strategically-placed insider minions, just a list of the characters I'd like to see get some ongoing series love from DC Comics.

1.  Cyborg -- The only member of the new "Big 7" Justice League currently without his own series.  I've gone on about this before in a previous post, so here's why I feel Cyborg deserves an ongoing.

2.  Jesse Quick -- The Flash still places in the Top 10 four months in, but only has one title while Green Lantern currently has four.  A solo Jesse Quick book could be a good way to broaden the Flash universe while keeping the current "One Flash Only" status quo.

3.  Raven -- Currently missing Post-Flashpoint, Raven offers the potential for dark supernatural stories that could appeal to female readers and fans of the seemingly-erased New Teen Titans.  Also, there was talk of a possible Raven TV series back in 2010, so perhaps it's time to give the character a full creative push.

4.  Text H for Hero -- Yeah, you heard me.  With all the recent advances in smartphone technology, maybe it's time to update the old "Dial H for Hero" concept for the 21st century.

5.  Blue Devil -- One of my favorite characters from the '80s, Blue Devil got some run in Justice League America and Shadowpact for a while but never really brought the character back to his initial appeal.  As far as I'm concerned, a movie special effects wizard/stuntman supernaturally trapped inside a high-tech Blue Devil suit is a pretty fun idea worth bringing back.

6. Chronos -- I know time-travel is pretty much verboten these days, but I really enjoyed reading about the adventures of the second Chronos, Walker Gabriel.  This series could help flesh out the new DC universe continuity and potentially correct any creative missteps that need some quick fixing.

7.  Checkmate -- The fairly-recent Greg Rucka series came the closest to finally giving DC a considerable espionage presence comparable to Marvel's SHIELD.  The concept still needs a little fine-tuning, but firmly believe there's considerable potential here.

8.  Vigilante -- Apart from the original cowboy Vigilante, Greg Sanders, the only version of this character I liked was the Punisheresque Adrian Chase.  The basic concept of an attorney that goes after criminals in his off hours has always worked well for Daredevil, so I'm surprised DC hasn't developed this premise further.

9.  The Spectre -- Another DC character with a possible TV series in development.  Either Jim Corrigan or Crispus Allen could work here, but Corrigan seems to be the one favored in recent animation.  Keep the character's powers limited to original levels of supernatural vengeance against criminals and you could have an edgy little series here.

10.  Secret Society -- A modern updating of the original Secret Society of Super-Villains series, which is in the process of being collected in hardcover volumes.  With so many major villains with goals of power and domination populating the DC Universe, you would think they'd be at odds with one another from time to time.  So go ahead and pit them against one another in a ruthless, underground "society" where alliances and loyalities shift daily.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

FRINGE Recaps for Next Week's Return

Still not on board the Fringe goodness train?  Well, here's your chance to get quickly caught up on what you've been missing.

Fox has produced a five-minute recap video narrated by star John Noble, who plays the brilliant and occasionally LSD-affected scientist Dr. Walter Bishop.  The video is part of the "Fringe: Past + Present + Future" series, which summarizes the fourth season's storyline to date, while asking if Peter Bishop will find a way to get back to his own timeline.

The show's fourth season was just getting really interesting when Fox put the ratings-challenged series on an extended holiday break.  The season’s seventh episode "Wallflower" took the show into the break with the cliffhanger revelation that Nina Sharp, head of the megacorporation Massive Dynamic, has been secretly injecting Agent Olivia Dunham with some lovely migraine-inducing drugs.

You can check out the recap video below, followed by a trailer for next week's episode, "Back To Where You've Never Been."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- THE PUNISHER #7

A year ago, I was of the opinion that after Garth Ennis' definitive run on The Punisher for Marvel's MAX mature readers line, there wasn't anything left to be said about the character of Frank Castle and his neverending mission to "punish" criminals.

I don't think I feel that way anymore.

Over the past six months, writer Greg Rucka has managed to make the Punisher interesting again, mostly by giving him an equally interesting supporting cast of characters.  New York Police Detective Oscar "Ozzy" Clemons gets the spotlight this issue, in a low-key but fascinating procedural tale called "The String."  Obsessively clicking a switchblade hunting knife from beginning to end, Ozzy struggles to follow the string of the Punisher's actions and takes his partner Walter Bolt along for the ride.

Rucka rewards longtime Daredevil and Punisher fans by resetting a classic rooftop brawl between the two that took place in Daredevil (vol.1) #257 by Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr.  Reworking the events from Ozzy's perspective, Rucka ties this current series in with classic Marvel continuity while providing new details in the process.  It's a fun, clever idea, although it now seems hard to reconcile the Punisher that once wore a tightfitting black costume with white gloves and boots with the modern version that prefers regular clothes with a black t-shirt with a skull sloppily spray-painted in white.

The art for this issue is by Rucka's former creative partner Michael Lark, who provides his typically terrific work here.  Together again, Rucka and Lark capture the feel of their previous DC Comics series Gotham Central, mixing a gritty police detective tale with the world of costumed vigilantes.  Regular artist Marco Checchetto has been producing some excellent work on this book, but Lark seems to complement the tone of Rucka's script better and gives this character piece a bit more edge than it might have had otherwise.

And even though the Punisher appears only in flashback form, fans can be reassured that his presence is still felt everywhere.  Just follow the string.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Your 2012 Geek Movie Calendar

A new year brings us that much closer to The Films You've Been Dying to See for Like Forever.  If you're a fan of big-budget sci-fi, fantasy and comic book spectaculars as I am, you already have several must-see flicks in the pipeline for 2012.  With that in mind, I thought I'd go ahead and give a helpful chronological rundown of which geek movie goodness arrives when.  Some of these will be worth the long wait, others you wouldn't watch even if they were free on cable, but each have their audiences and key target demographics.  Start planning your work vacation/sick/personal days accordingly.


20 - Underworld Awakening


3 - Chronicle
10 - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D
17 - Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


2 - Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
9 - John Carter
23 - The Hunger Games
30 - Wrath of the Titans


13 - The Cabin in the Woods, The Three Stooges


4 - The Avengers
11 - Dark Shadows
18 - Battleship
25 - Men in Black 3


1 - Snow White and the Huntsman
8 - Prometheus
22 - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Brave
29 - G.I. Joe: Retaliation


3 - The Amazing Spider-Man
20 - The Dark Knight Rises


3 - The Bourne Legacy, Total Recall
17 - The Expendables 2


14 - Finding Nemo 3D, Resident Evil: Retribution
21 - Dredd


5 - Frankenweenie


9 - Skyfall
16 - The Twili--Oh, who cares...


14 - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
21 - World War Z
25 - Django Unchained

Monday, January 2, 2012

DAMN Good Movies -- My Top 10 Movies of 2011

Another year is officially in the history books, so I thought I'd pass along a few random thoughts about my personal favorite films of 2011.  For those not familiar with my typical disclaimer, this list only contains films I actually managed to see in theaters or on home video, so if you don't see your favorite here, that's probably why.

1.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- Yes, this David Fincher adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy was just made only two years ago in a Swedish adaptation.  The thing is, though, if David Fincher is willing to direct an English-language version, you step out of the way and just let him at it.  With this version, Fincher brings all the darkness and atmosphere that made his previous films Se7en and Zodiac so effective.  He makes full cinematic use of the snowy foreign landscape, while Rooney Mara probably has a Best Actress Oscar in her future this year for her performance as the damaged Lisbeth Salander.  And I guarantee that after seeing this film, you'll never listen to Enya's "Orinoco Flow" the same way again...

2.  Super 8 -- This came very close to being my favorite film of the year, but as others have noted elsewhere, J.J. Abrams' tribute to classic Steven Spielberg movies stumbles a bit in the last 20 or so minutes.  Most of the movie, however, evokes everything great about '80s kid adventure films like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies.  Elle Fanning does a terrific job as Alice Dainard, the cute girl from school willing to be a part of homemade zombie movie.  Bonus points for showing the kids' zombie movie during the closing credits.

3.  Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol -- Brad Bird's live-action directorial debut hits one out of the park.  The fourth film in the Mission: Impossible series is arguably its best, with non-stop, exhausting action sequences and some seriously insane camera shots.  Like many people, I expected Tom Cruise to transition the franchise over to new IMF member Jeremy Renner, but Cruise doesn't seem ready to let go just yet.  Simon Pegg gets quite a bit more to do this time as a official field agent, keeping things light and fun even with all the espionage babble.  A fifth film seems inevitable now, so hopefully the IMF team upgrades their conveniently faulty tech next time.

4.  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows -- After enjoying the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes romp, I was a bit nervous about the sequel based on the jokey, explosive-heavy trailers.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to find a more serious film and a wonderfully menacing Professor James Moriarty in Fringe's Jared Harris, son of the late Richard Harris.  Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law still have the solid bromance chemistry as Holmes and Watson and Stephen Fry has a fun cameo as Sherlock's older brother Mycroft.  The current BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch remains the better depiction of Holmes these days, but there's still plenty of room for this entertaining take on traditional-period Holmes as well.

5.  X-Men: First Class -- The best of a very strong summer of Marvel Comics superhero movies.  Stardust and Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn finally got a chance to play with the big toys and definitely makes the most of it.  Even with an entirely new cast of X-Men and a prequel "how the X-Men formed" setting, Vaughn breathed new life into the franchise with a swinging '60s/classic James Bond feel.  It also didn't hurt that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were very strong as the young Professor X and Magneto, each making the roles their own and just as memorable as Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen.

6.  Captain America: The First Avenger -- I can't begin to describe how glad I was that this film turned out as well as it did.  Director Joe Johnston managed to recall everything he did that made his previous period superhero film The Rocketeer so much fun and blended it nicely with the setup for the upcoming Avengers team film.  Chris Evans made you completely forget he was the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies, while proving that even "just a kid from Brooklyn" could become one of the greatest screen superheroes ever.

7.  Thor -- The first superhero film of the summer launched things in a big way with some elaborate sets and costumes right out of Flash Gordon mixed in with some very Jack Kirbyesque special effects.  Chris Hemsworth officially became a star with this movie, while Natalie Portman stopped being her usual wooden self long enough to help sell the long, long-distance romance between Thor and Jane Foster.  Kudos to director Kenneth Branaugh for not one, not two, but three fun cameos by legendary Thor comics creators.

8.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two -- It's over.  Finally.  This eight-film series started off sweet and innocent, then began showing incredible potential around the middle years, but ultimately staggered awkwardly to its overblown conclusion.  Regardless, the achievement of making all these movies with most of the same cast is positively incredible in this day and age and if nothing else, the series has launched the next generation of British actors who will entertain us for decades to come.

9.  J. Edgar -- This film probably won't make too many Top 10 for 2011 lists, but I thought it was an interesting look at a figure rapidly fading into historical obscurity.  The creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its effect on America is handled nicely by director Clint Eastwood, but comes as deliberate Oscar bait at times.  I can see Leonardo DiCaprio landing another Best Actor nomination, though.

10.  The Muppets -- Even though this movie structures its entire premise around nostalgia, sometimes beating you over the head with it, you still can't help but smile as you watch it.  Everything old-school Muppet Show fans loved is here, while Jason Segel and Amy Adams seem to be enjoying the hell out of themselves in every scene they're in.  Sure, the film is corny, intentionally so at times, but because it's the Muppets, it works and works beautifully.

All in all, a pretty solid year for movies.  Bring on 2012!